REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Cotton to it: Green haven just off Park St.

ADDRESS: 1011 Cottonwood Road

NEIGHBORHOOD: North Avenue/Northeast Park

ASKING: $305,000

ASSESSMENT: $264,700


SIZE: 2,100 fin. sq. ft., 200 unfin.

LAND: 0.24 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Jim McVay, Roy Wheeler Realty Co., 434-951-5122

While rolling hills are common in some Charlottesville neighborhoods, not every house benefits from them. This week's house is unusually successful using landscaping and terrain to create a private, natural setting that helps distinguish it from its very similar neighbors.

A tour of the perimeter reveals two decks and a fishpond as well as decorative fencing and several plant varieties. The only grass on the property is in the back yard; ground cover makes mowing elsewhere unnecessary. This was a wise decision, since it looks like it would be almost impossible to navigate a Toro up and down the steep hillside out front. The brick façade is in harmony with the rest of the neighborhood, while the dark wood finish of the back has the same effect with its more natural surroundings. 

The patio at the top of the driveway— almost a ground-level deck— makes a nice spot to enjoy some privacy outdoors. The house, the slope, and a fence shield the patio from prying eyes on Cottonwood Road. A door from the patio leads to a downstairs sitting room and a dominating brick fireplace with a hearth wide enough to use as a bench. Surprisingly, it's also the first time we remember seeing half shutters used imaginatively: they block views of other houses while almost framing pretty sky views. 

At the other end of the house, shades covering the well windows in the office create the opposite effect. While they do add notable color accents– and the owner claims that they don't significantly reduce the available light– they block views of the sky in favor of close-ups of the dark wells.

There's a bathroom down here, and a utility room with washer and dryer. An extra room with a ground-level window that might be used as a bedroom is currently storage space. Some of this room was taken to be a closet for the office next door, but new owners should be able to reverse the annexation either for more room or to augment the under-the-stairs closet storage already in the room.  

In traditional split-level style, the front door opens to a landing halfway up the stairs. While the house is level, the terrain is not, and the living room in the highest corner of the house offers a nice view of the surrounding neighborhood. The fireplace— on the same chimney as the one downstairs— has glass screens. The hardwood floors of the living and dining rooms provide an interesting bracketing effect to the tile-floored kitchen. Despite its wide doorways, the kitchen feels enclosed and a little cozy thanks to the contrast with the open surrounding rooms. Off the dining room is the back deck, which is almost level with the ground. 

Although one of two closets in the upstairs hallway houses the heating/AC ductwork, it still has a fair amount of storage space. The three upstairs bedrooms off the hallway all have ceiling fans and hardwood floors, although the back two bedrooms have been carpeted.

None of the bedrooms are especially large, but the master bedroom has its own bath– and both rooms sport assertive green wallpaper that may not be to the taste of all prospective buyers. The agreeable owner is willing to change it, however. Fortunately, the main upstairs bath is painted in a more neutral off-white. 

It's clear that efforts have been made to get the house ready to sell. Whether interior updates are enough to offset the prosaic split-level ranch vibe in a neighborhood of clones is problematic. But the exterior decks, landscaping, hillsides and fish pond might just come together well enough to tip the scales for buyers who want to be relatively close to town without the oppression of concrete and asphalt. 

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